Business Continuity: 3 Things Your Company Can Do During The Coronavirus Outbreak

The recent outbreak of a novel coronavirus has placed Singapore businesses in the midst of various uncertainties, such as risks in lower customer demand, travel limitations and supply chain disruptions. 

You might be wondering how you and your business should cope with the unpredictable coronavirus situation around you.

In response to your possible concerns, Enterprise Singapore (ESG) has delineated an overall guide for your business on how to deal with the existing coronavirus situation, how to implement safeguard measures as well as how to mitigate the outbreak of cases within your own business. 

What Is The Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

This virus that has disrupted the lives and businesses of many in Asia and around the world by far belongs to a family of viruses (the Coronaviruses) which can cause common colds to more life-threatening diseases, such as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). 

While the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infections began in China, confirmed infections and deaths have also been reported in other parts of the world.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar with that of regular pneumonia, including fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough and shortness of breath. Yet, the effects can worsen existing medical conditions victims might have, resulting in critical illness and even death. 

Therefore, to ensure your business and workplace remain equipped to deal with this threat, here are 3 key points from the ESG guide you need to know to ensure your business operations can better deal the virus outbreak, as well as to mitigate the risks of a virus cluster emerging in your workplace. 

#1 Human Resource Matters 

Appoint a trustworthy person in-charge (eg: in the form of a Business Continuity Manager or BCM) whose role is to coordinate the various prevention and mitigation measures in your office as well as to be the main point-of-contact (POC) to liaise with various government agencies on your company’s situation. 

This BCM will ensure all staff be aware of the necessary precautionary measures to be taken. He or she should post notifications around the office and even in the washrooms to remind staff to monitor their temperatures and to report if they are experiencing any flu-like or feverish symptoms. 

You and your staff should drop all unnecessary travel plans and ensure that people who have travelled in the past couple of weeks be faithful and upfront in declaring their health and travel situations with the relevant declaration forms provided. 

If necessary, allocate an isolation room or rooms in your company premises to make sure that staff who do not feel well can be placed separately from the rest of your staff for contact tracing before they are sent to the doctor. 

If your business permits, arrange alternative work arrangements for staff who feel unwell, who are supposed to be on Leave Of Absence (LOA) or who are on quarantine. Many businesses in China and beyond are currently getting by using telecommuting and teleconferencing methods to work with their staff. 

Depending on the manpower size of your company, you might appoint one or more staff to assist the BCM in responding to the current health crisis. 

#2 Business Process Measures 

As much as possible, your business should have alternative work arrangements (such as those mentioned in Point #1 above) to cater to the rising climate of uncertainty in terms of the coronavirus situation. 

Besides video-conferencing, tele-conferencing and other forms of remote work, your business should also make plans to coordinate supply chain disruptions due to the shutdown and lockdown of many modes of production in China. 

For example, consider looking for alternative temporary vendors and supply sources to ease the supply chain disruption your company might be facing, as well as arrange for alternative delivery methods. 

Another way you can mitigate the negative effects of the virus outbreak on your business would be to cross-train your staff to cover for staff who are on Leave of Absence and who are under quarantine. You might also consider splitting your teams into various work locations to minimize contact among your staff as much as possible. 

Always be on the alert during your in-house health surveillance processes to ensure your staff can monitor their temperatures regularly and to isolate those who exhibit suspicious symptoms. 

#3 Have A Robust Communications Plan

Appoint a communications coordinator to be in contact with the various government ministries and agencies with regard to the most updated health situation as well as to quickly report any suspected cases among your staff to the relevant authorities. 

This communications in-charge (IC) can also liaise with the various stakeholders, customers and vendors of your business on various contingency plans in the event of a worsening virus situation. 

Moreover, ensure that the communications coordinator is up-to-date with the latest and most reliable national health situation of Singapore according to the DORSCON framework.

Putting Business Continuity Planning In Action

The ESG guide for businesses (especially for Small-to-Medium Sized Enterprises) has listed detailed annexes on how to properly wash your hands and don surgical masks, how to perform contact tracing of suspected cases of the virus as well as how to manage unwell staff in and out of the workplace. 

Yet this guide does not claim to be exhaustive and does not cover all types of businesses. A more comprehensive approach your business should take would be to refer to this conjunction with the latest relevant advisories issued by MOH and other government agencies. 

If you wish to go a step further, consider asking business continuity planning professionals’ help on information appropriate to your unique business circumstances.

For more details on the ESG guide, check out the Enterprise Singapore guide.

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